Fearing dissent, Pelosi won't let House honor Michael Jackson

McClatchy NewspapersJuly 9, 2009 

WASHINGTON — Amid the great debates of the day over health care, global warming and economic recovery, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that there will be no pause in the action to honor Michael Jackson.

For the record, the San Francisco Democrat said that Jackson was "a great, great performer" and that his death has brought "lots of sadness . . . for many reasons."

However, she also made clear that she won't allow the House to debate a resolution honoring the fallen pop star.

"A resolution, I think, would open up to contrary views to — that are not necessary at this time to be expressed in association with a resolution whose purpose is quite different," Pelosi said.

Huh?

A little background is in order.

Shortly after Jackson's death last month, Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas introduced a resolution saluting the singer's life and work. She held a framed copy of it on the stage at Jackson's memorial service Tuesday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

However, Republican Rep. Peter King of New York, who called Jackson a "pervert" and a "pedophile," had vowed to block the resolution.

Apparently not wanting anything to do with the fight, Pelosi addressed the issue at her weekly press conference, beginning with this: "We're into the popular culture now."

Not wanting to entirely quash free debate, however, Pelosi said members could give short speeches honoring Jackson but that no roll call vote would be allowed.

"What I have said to my colleagues over the years, and certainly as leader and as speaker, is that there's an opportunity on the floor of the House to express their sympathy or their praise any time that they wish," Pelosi said. "I don't think it's necessary for us to have a resolution."

While Jackson Lee vowed to continue seeking support for her resolution, Pelosi was finding an unusual source of support: California Republicans.

Republican Rep. Tom McClintock said he would've backed the resolution if it had come to the floor, but he said Pelosi made the right call.

"The Romans had a great bit of wisdom on occasions such as this: de mortuis nil nisi bonum (of the dead, say only good)," McClintock said. "I certainly wouldn't criticize the speaker for deciding in the midst of momentous debates on the House floor that there simply isn't enough time to debate everything."

Rep. Dan Lungren, another California Republican, said it's best that the matter not be put to a vote because members would be "duty-bound" to debate both the good and bad sides of Jackson. He said he knows the prosecutor who brought charges against Jackson and that he thinks there was a very strong case against him, even though the entertainer was acquitted.

House Democrats also were happy to skip the debate.

"I don't think it would be necessarily wise," said Washington's Rep. Brian Baird. "When I have 15 percent unemployment in my district, I think this would just be a distraction."

Rep. Rick Larsen, also from Washington state, felt the same.

Amanda Mahnke, a Larsen spokeswoman, said "the only 'M.J.' he is focused on is 'more jobs' for his congressional district."

(Les Blumenthal contributed to this article.)

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